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The Root of America's Racist Immigration Policy

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The Root of America's Racist Immigration Policy

On Tuesday May 16,2006 President George W. Bush started his State of the Union speech with, "We must begin by recognizing the problem with our immigration system". Although the ideologies and issues that America faces today with immigration may seem more complex, there not. The truth is America was founded by immigrants and has flourished with many new types of immigrants to this very day. As romantic as that sounds, immigrants have been met with racist policies that have been institutionalized. Unfortunately, The United States has always treated immigration as a problem. This ideology began during the turn of the century when America absorbed 13 million immigrants, who were met with a hostile fear and prejudice by the natives. John Higham, 'a leading immigration scholar', offers reasons why he believes America's ideas about race changed during the late nineteenth century to support America's more restrictive (racist) immigration policy. It is a primitive human nature to reject something new, basically out of fear of the unknown. Author Madison Grant and President Calvin Coolidge illustrate these ignorance's best with their direct excerpts from the era. Best selling novelist of the time, Gene Stratton-Porter, tells a story with a more direct account on why Americans feared these immigrants, namely the Japanese. The real underlying force that fueled the racist ideology that would help ratify our nations open door immigration policy was a basic fear of the new, the unknown, and possible change or even loss of a way of life. Thus, leading to an assimilations attitude to create and promote the 'white-Anglo-American culture'.

From 1905 to 1914 an average of more than a million people annually immigrated to the United States, most new types of immigrants from southeastern Europe. Naturally it took some time for these immigrants to adjust, but who is to say they should change their culture to conform to the majority. This obviously caught the attention of many 'natives', so the government felt obligated to assess the situation. 1911, the U.S. Immigration Commision released the first of a series of racist and prejudiced reports that concluded the 'new iimigrant' seemed 'unable to become American'. A more direct rejection was also taking place on the west coast with the Chinese, who were referred

to as the "yellow menace". It was easier for 'natives' to justify discriminating against the Chinese, simply because of the Chinese physical differences (an ignorant, but real train of thought of that era). With the growing attitude that iimigrants were becoming a problem many citizen activist groups sprang up, most notably The Imgration Restriction League formed to advocate the reform of are immigration policy, hoping to make citizenship highly unattainable. Unfortunately what these advocates did not realize was that the U.S. would need these immigrants, not only for labor but the many unexpected innovations. Hollitz, 139-132.

John Higham states, "theoretical effort of restrictionists in the twentieth century consisted precisely in this: the transformation of relative cultural differences into an absolute line of cleavage, which would redeem the northwestern European from charges that once level at them and explain the present danger of immigration in terms of the change in its source". That was the basis for their dicrimination, a difference of culture. Modern-day thought would find this repulsive. This is also where 'natives' begin to join the ideas of race and culture as one, with "The American Standard of Living", which basically meant 'Anglo- Saxon'. Author Madison Grant draws upon this idea, but takes it a step further likening immigration to "race suicide". "the American looks calmly abroad and urges on others the suicidal ethics which are exterminating his own race" Grant, 148. These suicidal ethics are what Americans

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